Being at Langara grad Minh Ly’s first ever play was like being a fly on the wall at an awkward first date.
‘Ga Ting,’ which is Cantonese for family, is Ly’s debut as a playwright. It explores the story of a Chinese couple forced to accept their son’s death and true identity after a confrontational dinner with his Caucasian boyfriend.
Powerfully awkward and tense dialogue
The character trio grappled with issues of culture and sexuality in what was a strikingly realistic story.
But more real than that was the dialogue between the characters.
Throughout the play, the characters’ verbal exchanges artfully escalated the tension between the traditional Asian father and his son’s young boyfriend. Observing their interaction was an uncomfortable experience, but it was difficult to tear your eyes away from what was happening on stage.
It was easy to identify with the father’s reluctance in accepting his son, who was living in a world he didn’t understand.
At the same time, you can’t help but empathise with the boyfriend as he is forced to defend himself and his love with frustration.
Powerful flashback scenes gave insight into each character’s relationship with the deceased son as they spoke into the audience as if he were there.
The single dining room set made the play unique, as well as the English and Chinese subtitles displayed on projection screens during the show, emphasising even more the theme of communication.
The importance of talking things out
“The core of the piece is about communicating — communication among parents and their child, and children’s responsibilities in sharing themselves with their parents,” said Ly, who graduated from Studio 58 in 2006.
“I strive for diversity onstage, so when I had an opportunity to write a show, I thought it’d be interesting to have a . . . middle-aged Asian couple with a white dude sitting beside them.
“I’d like people in any family dynamic to walk away wanting to share themselves more with their loved ones,” Ly said.
Ga Ting is playing at the Richmond Cultural Centre until March 30.
Reported by Megan Bobetsis